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Entrepreneur brothers start farming businesses

Alisa Raty Published on 14 August 2012
Nick and Sam Moxley

In 2007, the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) found that in the U.S. the average age of a farm’s principal operator was 57.

It is well known that the average age of the farmer has been increasing over the years. Many young people are leaving the farm in search of other occupations.

But there is another interesting, often-overlooked fact the NASS found in 2007.

Operators of large farms tend to be younger, leading to the suspicion that perhaps those young people who choose to farm choose to be entrepreneurs as well.

Nick Moxley, 26, and Sam Moxley, 24, of Bonanza, Oregon, are farming 650 acres in partnership with each other. Both are recent graduates of Oregon State University (OSU). Both started business early while they were in school.

Business beginnings
Just after finishing an associate’s degree at Shasta College in Redding, California, Nick found an opportunity to lease 390 acres near Bonanza, Oregon – mostly hay ground.

About 60 acres of Nick’s operation was in pasture and Sam and Nick built up a herd of beef cows. Nick took out an operating loan to buy a tractor. Their father farms nearby and, while Nick gradually acquired equipment, he rented his father’s equipment.

Nick and Sam Moxley moving hay
“You’ve got to take a risk and lease a place, but you don’t have to take a risk and pile up equipment payments.

So we’ve tried to keep our risk down to a minimum. If we can’t afford something, we usually just try to make do without it,” Nick says.

Nick continued his schooling, this time at OSU where he earned a bachelor’s degree in agriculture business management.

“I was driving down most weekends when there was stuff to do down here. I’d come home sometime on Friday, then work all weekend and usually go back first thing Monday morning. It’s about a four-hour drive, so I’d leave about 5:00,” Nick says.

After Nick started leasing his place, Sam decided to start a custom hay-hauling business while a freshman at Linn-Benton Community College in Albany, Oregon.

Their parents had always hired someone with a balewagon to haul their hay. Now that Nick also needed help, Sam decided to buy a balewagon.

After doing that, he helped Nick and his parents out and began adding other people to the list.

“It was a challenge to go back and forth from school because it seemed like, in spring and fall, I was coming home every weekend. It took away a lot of weekends, but that was all right,” Sam says.

Sam continued through school and transferred to OSU, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in general agriculture. Currently, Sam picks up 70,000 bales in a season, excluding the work he does for his family.

Working together to make it work
Another nearby piece of ground came up for sale at a decent price and the owners wanted it to end up in the hands of young farmers. Because it was a good opportunity, Nick checked into it.

“I actually looked into buying it myself at first, and I realized there was no way for me to do everything. My best option, in my opinion, was to become business partners with my brother,” Nick said.

So Nick and Sam sold all their cows, used the money for a down payment and became official business partners.

Their acreage totaled 650 acres and they focused on growing alfalfa, timothy and orchardgrass, with wheat and barley as rotation crops.

Secrets of success
Nick and Sam attribute their success so far to several different things. Nick feels a lot of their success comes from the support they’ve had from the generation before them.

“I’ve had a lot of support from my parents. All the older farmers around, they’re very happy to see young people succeed.

I get a lot of advice from farmers who have been doing it for so long. I think of how I might want to do something, and I’ll ask them what they think. Either they’ll tell me it’s a great idea or that I’m crazy,” Nick says.

Sam says that working together has been one of the greatest factors to their success.

“We’re not battling each other. I think if you’re going to battle each other it’s just going to make things harder.

And luckily, we didn’t go into farming blinded. We kind of knew what we were doing, which helped,” Sam says.

Being careful to communicate is one of the things they do to ensure they don’t battle each other.

“We pretty much just make sure to bounce everything off of each other. We don’t go buying something new without talking to the other person or sell hay without talking to the other person, and we make sure we’re not selling too low or buying too high or anything like that,” Sam says.

Nick also notes how they help each other out with the farm and the custom hauling business.

“We kind of figure, all the work we’re doing, it all needs done. Doesn’t matter who’s actually doing it,” Nick says.  FG

PHOTOS
TOP: Nick and Sam Moxley say that working together and careful communication have been some of the greatest factors contributing to their success.

BOTTOM: Nick and Sam moving hay. Photos courtesy of the Moxley family.

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